March 2016, San Antonio—Our own Albert Garcia addressed the San Antonio area YMCA members for this year’s fundraising kick off. The evening showcased all that the YMCA does for the San Antonio community, from providing fun and safe work-out facilities, to inspiring families to live healthier lives regardless of financial resources.
Another aspect that the YMCA strives to foster is the development of leadership in our youth. The Youth and Government program sponsored by the YMCA engages high school students in the various branches of government. They get to learn the processes involved in holding public office, passing laws, and our nation’s judicial procedure. The program culminates with the National Youth and Government Competition in Chicago.
Albert Garcia has assisted local attorneys, Jessica Estorga and Steven Lopez, for the last three years in coaching the John F. Kennedy HS Mock Trial Team. The team competes in the Judicial section of the Youth and Government program against other high schools statewide. The 2015 competition season saw the participation of first-time mock trial-ers, and the challenges were nothing short of daunting.
“Mock trial was the way I learned about court room procedure,” says Mr. Garcia, “It’s the rules of evidence, addressing an audience, formulating arguments, all for the purpose of proving a case. To me it’s the closest training to a real trial you can get.” Mr. Garcia and the other coaches teach the students how to put on a mock case. That entails teaching public speaking skills, moving around the courtroom with confidence, “entering” evidence, making objections, among other things.
“Most of our students come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Their education is lacking, and when they come to us [for mock trial], we have to start from ground zero,” says Mr. Garcia of the challenges facing the San Antonio JFK students. “We have to teach vocabulary, help modify accents for our non-native English speakers, teach them a new way of learning. ” In spite of this, the JFK team made an impressive first-time showing at the State competition.
“What really inspires me is that this process that we put them through is hard. We expect a lot out of them, and sometimes it gets frustrating. But by the end of it, our students are confident in their newly found skills. They know they can take on any challenge.” The students are excited to start the new season this fall and the community was excited to cheer them on at kick off night.
This program instills confidence, work ethic, and public speaking skills. These are things that the students take with them far beyond the competition itself. RGP is proud of the time Mr. Garcia dedicates to giving back to our area’s youth. “I see myself reflected in our students. I came from the same schools, faced the same issues. It’s very important to me to show them that they are not a product of their circumstances, they can rise above all of that.”